NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — An Oklahoma judge ruled in favor of a police union that sued the Norman City Council for cutting the police budget amid calls from protesters to “defund the police” after the May death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Carter County Associate District Judge Thomas K. Baldwin ruled Thursday that the council violated the state Open Meetings Act when it voted to slash $865,000 from the police budget and reallocate the money during a June meeting. The Norman Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 122, sued the city in July.
Baldwin wrote that a required notice for the council’s June 16 meeting about the city’s budget was “deceptively worded.” The notice said the council was going to consider adoption of the city’s proposed operating and capital budgets for the upcoming fiscal year, The Oklahoman reported.
“Any person who read the language used would not have understood that there would be a defunding, a reallocation or modification of any underlying departments’ budget,” Baldwin wrote.
The special meeting came weeks after the death of Floyd. Floyd, who was Black, died after a white police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes. His death sparked protests worldwide against racial injustice and police brutality.
The city of Norman said in a statement that it would appeal Baldwin’s decision and that his ruling “is inconsistent with the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Open Meeting Act.”
Robert Wasoski, the union’s president, said the council’s June vote also violated “the will of Norman voters who want to live in a safe community.”
“We thank the court for invalidating the Council’s actions to defund police,” Wasoski said. “The Norman FOP will continue to hold (the) City Council accountable and advocate for adequate funding for the police department. Our members proudly protect and serve, and they appreciate the outpouring of support from our community.”
Because of the lawsuit, the city has kept the $865,000 at issue in reserve, according to court records.